The Religion of the Ancient Celts eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 445 pages of information about The Religion of the Ancient Celts.
the bull, the god represented by the bull became separate from it, became anthropomorphic, and in that form was associated with or actually was the hero Cuchulainn.  Bull sacrifices were common among the Celts with whom the bull had been a divine animal.[503] Possibly a further echo of this myth and ritual is to be found in the folk-belief that S. Martin was cut up and eaten in the form of an ox—­the god incarnate in the animal being associated with a saint.[504] Thus the literary versions of the Tain, departing from the hypothetical primitive versions, kept the bull as the central figure, but introduced a rival bull, and described its death differently, while both bulls are said to be reincarnations of divine swine-herds.[505] The idea of a fight for a bull is borrowed from actual custom, and thus the old form of the story was further distorted.

The Cuchulainn saga is more coherent than the Fionn saga, because it possesses one central incident.  The “canon” of the saga was closed at an early date, while that of Fionn has practically never been closed, mainly because it has been more a saga of the folk than that of Cuchulainn.  In some respects the two may have been rivals, for if the Cuchulainn saga was introduced by conquerors from Britain or Gaul, it would not be looked on with favour by the folk.  Or if it is the saga of Ulster as opposed to that of Leinster, rivalry would again ensue.  The Fionn saga lives more in the hearts of the people, though it sometimes borrows from the other.  This borrowing, however, is less than some critics, e.g.  Zimmer, maintain.  Many of the likenesses are the result of the fact that wherever a hero exists a common stock of incidents becomes his.  Hence there is much similarity in all sagas wherever found.


[453] IT i. 134; Nutt-Meyer, ii. 38 f.; Windisch, Tain, 342; L. Duvau, “La Legende de la Conception de Cuchulainn,” RC ix. 1 f.

[454] Windisch, Tain, 118 f.  For a similar reason Finnchad was called Cu Cerca, “the hound of Cerc” (IT iii. 377).

[455] For the boyish exploits, see Windisch, Tain, 106 f.

[456] RC vii. 225; Windisch, Tain, 20.  Macha is a granddaughter of Ler, but elsewhere she is called Mider’s daughter (RC xvi. 46).

[457] Rh[^y]s, CFL ii. 654; Westermarck, Hist. of Human Marriage, ch. 2.

[458] Miss Hull, Folk-Lore, xii. 60, citing instances from Jevons, Hist. of Religion, 65.

[459] Windisch, IT ii. 239.

[460] Windisch, 184, 312, 330; cf. IT iii. 355; Miss Hull, 164 f.; Rh[^y]s, HL 468.

[461] LL 119_a_; RC iii. 175.

[462] Windisch, 342.

[463] RC iii. 175 f.

[464] Ibid. 185.

[465] Crowe, Jour.  Kilkenny Arch.  Soc. 1870-1871, 371 f.

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